Although the law requires drivers to have valid liability coverage, the truth is that many Louisiana motorists are uninsured. Some can't get insurance because they're driving without a license, while others may be making the choice to forgo coverage in favor of handling other expenses.
When you're in a car accident caused by a uninsured motorist or a driver with insufficient insurance coverage, your own auto policy can be used to seek reimbursement for accident-related expenses.
What Is Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage?
Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, also known as UM or UIM coverage, pays for your medical care and other expenses when you're involved in an accident caused by someone who does not have valid auto insurance or when the driver responsible for the accident has insurance that doesn't sufficiently cover your expenses. Benefits may apply in a hit-and-run accident if a witness can verify the circumstances of the incident.
Louisiana law requires all auto insurance policies sold within the state to come with UM or UIM coverage, unless the policyholder has specifically waived this coverage in writing. This means that the vast majority of drivers do have an avenue for collecting damages when they've been hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver. Policies are typically issued at the state's bodily injury liability limits of $15,000, unless different limits are requested by the driver.
If you are seeking benefits, you have a duty to cooperate with your insurer's investigation of the accident. You'll be asked to provide an account of the events, proof the other driver had no insurance or insufficient insurance, and contact info for any witnesses. You'll also be asked for verification of your medical expenses and lost wages. You should be honest when providing this information, but avoid speculating about the circumstances of the accident or the severity of your injuries.
If you had passengers in your vehicle at the time of the accident, your UM or UIM coverage also applies to their accident-related expenses.
What Is Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Economic-Only Coverage?
Uninsured/underinsured motorist economic-only coverage provides the same basic benefits as uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, with the exception of only covering the actual cost of injuries to you and any passengers. With this type of coverage, you can't be awarded benefits for pain and suffering related to the accident. In a personal injury claim, pain and suffering are considered non-economic damages because they don't have a cost that can be verified with any documentation.
What Is Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Property Damage Coverage?
Uninsured/underinsured motorist property damage coverage can be purchased to help pay for repairs to your vehicle if the damage is caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver. There is a $250 deductible. In most cases, the maximum benefit is $25,000 or the actual cash value of your vehicle. However, you may purchase a policy with a higher recovery limit if you believe this is appropriate given the value of your vehicle.
Uninsured/underinsured motorist property damage coverage isn't available if you already have a policy that includes collision insurance. It's not necessary in this case because it provides coverage already included under collision insurance.
How Can I Protect My Legal Rights?
Your insurance agent can answer any general questions you might have about the types of damages covered in your policy and the applicable deductibles. However, you should keep in mind that an insurance agent's job is to keep costs down for his employer. Your insurance agent isn't necessarily concerned with helping you receive a settlement that adequately meets your accident-related expenses.
If you're trying to collect benefits, hiring skilled legal representation is strongly recommended. A personal injury attorney can handle all communication with your insurance company and present your claim in a way that maximizes your available compensation. Since personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, there is no upfront cost associated with retaining legal representation.
Neblett, Beard & Arsenault’s legal team is dedicated to helping Louisiana residents receive fair and timely settlements following a serious auto accident. Please call to schedule a free, no-obligation case review at one of our six convenient office locations.